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Abolish Capitalism

Comment 3rd July 2010

From it's humble roots in the merchant towns of 14th century Italy to it's explosion onto the world stage sweeping away the remnants of Feudal reaction in the American and French revolutions the bourgeoisie stood for the ideals of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death!". However it's revolutionary potential soon gave way to smug reaction and an alliance with the old aristocratic exploiting classes and with the entrance onto the world stage of the Gesamtarbeit ("Total worker") as a world-historic force and communism as the world-historic reality which it saught to assert against the inverted unreality of capitalism the bourgeoisie gave up it's claims to  assert the rights of the Third Estate. With the onset of the first world war and the worldwide insurrectionary wave that followed it beggining with the Red October in Russia and spreading out to the Novermber revolution and Spartacist uprisings in Germany and the biennio rosso in Italy as well as finding echoes in the rising British shop stewards movement and the Seattle general strike not only the bourgeoisie but capitalism as a world-historic system entered it's phase of decadence. The insurrectionary wave finally petered out after the collapse of the frankly feeble British general strike of 1926, but the message of "all power to the workers councils" against the rule of capital and especially it's statist and productivist left-wing had been made abundantly clear.

The phase of capitalist decadence, like the corresponding period of feudal decadence, has been characterised by a thousandfold increase in the power of the state in order to stave off capitalism's collapse. Part of this has been the statisation of the old workers institutions – the labour and social-democratic parties and "yellow" trade unions – in order to divert proletarian struggles away from revolutionary opposition to the existing state of things. The new role of the old institutions was seen quite clearly in events such as mai 68 when the French bourgeoisie was packing it's bags to flee to west germany only to have the trade unions and "official communist" party seperate the workers and end the wildcat strike. However it has also included the transformation of capitalism away from it's petty-proprietor free-trade phase into it's monopoly and state-monopoly phases.

In this era of capitalist decadence we are once again faced with that old choice offered to us by Friedrich Engels and recapitulated by Rosa Luxemburg – The dictatorship of the workers or the dictatorship of the market! Production, all sided in it's individuality and controlled collectively by all, or the generalised destruction of the productive forces by capitalism's relentless thirst for valorisation! Socialism or Barbarism!

Why does this matter?

Since the entrance of capitalism into it's phase of decadence there has thusfar been two major international assaults by the working-class against the rule of capital that we can pinpoint: The 1917-1923 assault that began with the Red October in Russia and the 1968-77 assault that began with Mai 68. Capitalism has attempted to hide the revolutionary potential of the working-class or otherwise use the spectre of Stalinism to divert it away from opposition to capitalism. However such attempts are useless in the face of the incontrovertible fact that Stalinism was not the product of the revolution that began with the call of "All Power to the Soviets!" but it's gravedigger. It was the result of a massive international counter-revolution by capital against the working-class adapted to the specifically Russian conditions where the working-class had already seized power. This can be seen clearly in several areas. In the field of art for example, the Bolshevik revolution coincide with the high point of the avant-garde movement in Russia only to be swept away by the reactionary art form known as "Socialist Realism" during the Stalinist era.

Even with the current international crisis of capitalism the massive ideological assault against the "spectre of communism" means that it is still too early to predict a third wave. However sooner or later it must come. Everything, as Heraclitus once said, is in constant flux. It changes continuously and what looked like hopeless defeat at one minute can through the hand of fate become victory. The recovery of Marx's early works and the realisation of the deep connection with Hegel contained within his latter works (Contra to the Althusserian notion of an "epistemological rupture") has given us knew theoretical tools with which to understand the world and the new task on the agenda (For example, the distinction between the "extensive" and "intensivel" phases of capital accumulation, used expertly by the French Neo-Bordigists to shed new insight onto the history of capitalism over the last hundred years) is the spread of this advanced programmatic insight to enough members of the class in order to create a real vanguard with knowledge of the historic tasks and possibilities presented to them to make the next assault the final assault.

The failure of the last two assaults against capital led to the rise of Stalinism and Fascism after the first wave and a general rise in the difficulties of living for the working class after the second. Expressed particularly in the rise of the 2-3 income family, the rising cost of house prices and living more generally. This is not even to mention the fact that the great majority of the population of the world finds it hard to find work, or where they do they perform socially useless tasks which only serve the capitalist valorisation process and not any real human need. As the divide between what is and what could be grows ever wider the need for a society based on the collective appropriation of the conditions of production and the fullest democracy possible becomes ever clearer.

Capitalism creates massive beuracratisation. It needs masses of managers and beuracrats in order to contain the workers and keep them going from nine to five. It needs a whole massive state apparatus in order to defend the capitalist property by which the labour of many is transformed into the wealth of the few. Instead of delegates acting on the instructions of their electors, instantly recallable and payed the wages of skilled workingmen it gives us "representatives" who only respect the sovereignty of the people insofar as it asserts itself on election day. Democracy in a society ripped apart by class divisions is and can be nothing other than a sham designed to protect the ruling classes through various institutions such as the corporate and state media which pump out endless propaganda to keep the system ideologically stable. Democracy under a socialist system is the only real democracy. Freedom in the subjective sense which was ushered in by the ideologists of capitalism is no freedom at all except freedom for the super rich. In ancient greece you were free to the extent that you were a member of a free community. This concept of collective freedom towers above that created by the ideologists of the bourgeoisie. Capitalism claims to be a system of freedom, equality and justice. We now know this freedom to be the freedom of the bourgeoisie, equality to be equality in the eyes of the bourgeois state and justice to be justice according to the bourgeoisie.

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